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REVIEWS641 Larson, Richard. 1990. Double objects revisited: Reply to Jackendoff. Linguistic Inquiry 21.589-632. Rizzi, Luigi. 1986. Null objects in Italian and the theory of pro. Linguistic Inquiry 17.501-57. Linguistics Department[Received 5 February 1991.] Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA 19081 Conditions for second language learning: Introduction to a general theory. By Bernard Spolsky. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Pp. x, 272. Reviewed by Robert DeKeyser, University of Pittsburgh It has been about five years since Ellis 1986 provided second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and those interested in the scientific basis for the art of second language teaching with a comprehensive overview of SLA. The amount of research in this field has grown very rapidly since then, both in quantity and quality, and therefore a new overview is particularly welcome. The goal of S's book is precisely 'to explore the requirements for a general theory of second language learning by examining the conditions under which languages are learned, and to consider the relevance of such a theory for language teaching' (2). In other words, it is supposed to be a broad overview of SLA. The originality of the book consists mainly of two things: the use of one of the author's own studies to test 'the model' at the end of the book, and the way the book is organized around a set of 'conditions for second language learning', as reflected in the title. These 74 (sic) conditions are rather heterogeneous in nature. Not only are they of different kinds—necessary or typical, categorical or graded—but they also vary from 'real conditions' (dealing with social or psychological determinants of success in second language learning) to more general statements, such as Condition 13: 'Ability to use language knowledge varies in accuracy' (18). Many of these short statements cannot render the complexity of the issues involved, and at times they seem outright trivial, e.g. Condition 51: 'The more time spent learning any aspect of a second language, the more will be learned' (23). At any rate, they are a poor substitute for a conclusion or summary at the end of a chapter or section. Even though the book is general in nature, some areas of SLA clearly receive more emphasis than others. There is more discussion of the sociolinguistic context (in particular accommodation theory and the theory of ethnolinguistic vitality—see Ch. 9, 'The social context') than in most SLA books; and there is more analysis of the different components of knowledge and skill (see especially Ch. 3, 'Knowing how to use a language') and how they can be tested (see Ch. 5, 'Measuring knowledge of a second language'). Particularly welcome is the discussion of how (certain types of) attitudes and motivation differentially affect certain aspects of second language learning (Ch. 10, 'Attitudes and motivation '). Another strength of the book is the inclusion of many examples from 642LANGUAGE, VOLUME 67. NUMBER 3 (1991) the Middle East; too much SLA literature is focused almost exclusively on Europe and North America. Clearly underrepresented is the role of linguistics in SLA research. The two major contributions from linguistics, contrastive analysis in its various forms and the universal grammar approach, are dealt with summarily in Ch. 8, 'The linguistic basis', and the analogy between SLA and pidginization is discussed rather briefly among input factors in Ch. 10. Nowhere in the linguistic discussion is a learner utterance quoted, unbelievable as that may sound. Furthermore , given the aforementioned goal of the book, surprisingly little attention is paid to existing theories of SLA; even Krashen's well-known theory (1982, 1985) is never presented in its entirety, and the problem of negative evidence is hardly mentioned. Approaching SLA issue by issue rather than through existing encompassing theories may be preferable, but it is hard to reconcile with a goal that is 'to explore the requirements of a general theory' (2). The major problem, however, is the way the author's own empirical study is integrated with the rest of the book. Ch. 13 is entitled 'Testing the model', but it is hard to see any model there; all the author has offered so far is a long list of 'conditions' that in many...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 641-644
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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